A constitutional crisis in the Hungarian judiciary

“The Hungarian judiciary is facing a kind of ‘constitutional crisis’ since May 2018 while “checks and balances, which are crucial to ensuring judicial independence, have been further weakened within the ordinary court system”. These are findings by the European Association of Judges and the European Commission, both of which are following with concern the deterioration of the independence of Hungarian courts.

Beyond growing attempts by Hungarian authorities to exert political control over independent
institutions, including courts, the independence of the judiciary in Hungary is severely threatened by a prolonged conflict between key judicial actors that is jeopardizing the effective oversight of court administration. The person responsible for court administration, the President of the National Judicial Office (NJO) is not cooperating with the judicial oversight body, resulting in a “constitutional crisis”. This oversight body, the National Judicial Council, found that the NJO President had breached the law multiple times regarding recruitment and promotion of judges, hence it requested the Parliament to
dismiss the NJO President. However, on 11 June 2019, the Parliament’s ruling Fidesz-KDNP majority voted to keep her in office.

At the same time, the Government is planning to set up a heavily government-controlled
administrative court system that will be separate from the ordinary courts. The new court system will have jurisdiction over taxation, public procurement and other economic matters, election, freedom of assembly, asylum and certain other human rights issues, as well as all kinds of decisions taken by public administrative authorities. Several domestic and international actors have expressed concerns over these changes in recent months, such as the European Commission, the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner and the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges.